How To Become A Plastic Surgeon In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how to become plastic surgeons in Australia.


Are you passionate about advancing your surgical career to help people restore their body function and enhance appearance? If yes, becoming a Plastic Surgeon can be a good career option.


Plastic surgeons are trained experts who use various surgical techniques and procedures to repair and reconstruct tissue, muscle injuries, and congenital deformities. They also perform cosmetic surgery to improve the look and feel of a person.


To become a plastic surgeon, you must first become a Medical Practitioner by completing an undergraduate and an accredited medical school program, followed by a residency program and internship requirements.


This blog is a guide to learning what a Plastic Surgeon is and how you can become one in Australia. Learn their daily duties, education and training requirements, qualifications, courses, how long it takes, average salary, employment prospects, and more.



1. What Is Plastic Surgery?


Plastic surgery involves rebuilding or repairing body parts to treat an injury or for cosmetic purposes. It encompasses two main procedures, Reconstructive Surgery and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery.


Reconstructive plastic surgery aims to enhance the functioning of abnormal body structures that suffer from congenital imperfection, trauma, infection, developmental abnormalities, tumours, or illnesses.


Examples of reconstructive surgery are hand operations, neck, and head reconstruction, cleft lip and palate reparations, breast reconstruction, and soft tissue cancer procedures. 


Cosmetic plastic surgery modifies or reshapes a bodily feature to enhance the aesthetic appearance of a person. Examples are otoplasty, blepharoplasty, facelifts, breast reduction/enhancement, and liposuction.


Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Inc is the peak body for Specialist Plastic Surgeons, including reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgeons.



2. What Is A Plastic Surgeon?


Plastic surgeons perform reconstructive and aesthetic surgery to alter/restore the appearance and function of different body parts or facial features and improve the patient's quality of life.


They can work with children and adults based on their subspeciality and fields of interest. Plastic surgeons serve as consultants for oncologists and may work with other specialists to perform corrective procedures for natal injuries or congenital disabilities.


In Australia, qualified plastic and cosmetic practitioners need to register with the following medical bodies:


  • The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 

  • Western Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

  • Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

  • Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons

  • Australian Medical Association 



3. Plastic Surgeon Tasks And Duties


Plastic surgeons perform a wide range of tasks. Some of them are as follows:


  • Perform reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

  • Assess patients and determine the need for operations, explains risks to patients, and identify the suitable operational procedure and treatment schedule.

  • Review patient health reports, medical histories, and reactions to medications.

  • Take part in patient care meetings and panels. 

  • Recommend post-operative care

  • Provide follow-up evaluations and regularly examine the patient's progress

  • Discuss with anaesthetists about suitable anaesthesia for patients.

  • Perform pediatric plastic surgery to treat congenital abnormalities such as polydactyly and cleft palate in children.

  • Use plates or implants to strengthen the bone structure.

  • Use skin grafts to restore skin and muscle loss caused due to burns.

  • Uses microsurgery to transplant skin tissues in the head or hand

  • Examine the operation room, equipment, and surgical setup to ensure established surgical protocols. It includes cleanliness, sterility, anaesthesia, aseptic, and antiseptic methods) throughout the surgery.

  • Injects botox to reduce muscular activation and the visibility of facial wrinkles.

  • Install prosthetic devices to restore body appearance.

  • Liaise with medical personnel such as anesthesiologists, nurses, and other medical experts

  • Provide rehabilitative treatment to facilitate movement of body parts like the hand regain movement.

  • Exchange ideas with other medical specialists and plastic surgeons.

  • Perform admin tasks like keeping records of operations done.



4. What Skills Do Plastic Surgeons Need?


Besides surgical knowledge, you need a wide range of soft skills to become a successful Plastic Surgeon:



Technical skills


Knowledge of surgical techniques like implanting devices, flap surgery, skin grafting, microsurgery, and tissue expansion is necessary.


  • Thorough understanding of patient care and complex wounds, including automobile accident injuries or burns

  • Well-versed in applying wound management techniques to facilitate healing, such as cleaning, dressing, and skin closure.

  • Proficient in operating various tools and equipment to perform cosmetic surgery.



Soft Skills


  • Problem-solving skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Critical-thinking abilities

  • Visuospatial awareness

  • Excellent interpersonal skills

  • Able to communicate effectively, openly, and professionally

  • Exceptional bedside manner 

  • Attention to precision

  • Manual dexterity

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Able to maintain a steady hand and composure even under pressure

  • Stress tolerance

  • Personal emotional resilience to deal with patients who have gone through acute disfigurement, and trauma 

  • Reasoning skills

  • Patience

  • Physical stamina

  • Teamwork skills



5. What Qualifications Do Plastic Surgeons Need? 


To become a Plastic surgeon, you must become a qualified doctor, undertake training with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and specialise in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Here are the steps to qualify for this role.


  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree in organic chemistry, physics, biology, and inorganic chemistry

  • Undertake four years of Medical School that includes pre-clinical and clinical training. 

  • Choose your specialisation and apply for residency training. 

  • Get registered with the Medical Board of Australia to become a Qualified Doctor.

  • Undertake Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery training with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

  • After 5-6 years, pass the RACS examinations to attain the fellowship FRACS (Plast) and practice plastic surgery in your preferred state of work.

  • College Fellows must complete another 1-2 years of semi-supervised training in their subspecialty area of interest.

  • Gain professional Membership in the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, or Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons



6. Steps To Become A Plastic Surgeon In Australia


To work as a Plastic Surgeon, you need to be a Qualified Doctor, undergo specialised training, and attain a plastic surgery fellowship in Australia. 


Here is a step-wise guide to help you start your professional journey. 



Step 1: Completing Your Undergraduate Degree


To enter a Medical School, you must first complete an undergraduate degree with mandatory prerequisite courses to qualify for medical school. Aspiring Plastic Surgeons should study premedical courses in organic chemistry, physics, inorganic chemistry, and biology.


In addition to your undergrad coursework, consider participating in relevant after-school activities to build clinical experience. This can include research, hospital work, community service, volunteer work, involvement in leadership activities, etc. All this can help you stand out as a more competitive medical school applicant.



Step 2: Completing Medical School


After graduating, the next step is to study for a medical degree. It is a 4-year course that comprises pre-clinical and clinical training. In the initial two years of your study, you will learn basic medical concepts, human anatomy, and protocols to diagnose and treat several diseases. 


The last two years include clinical rotations to provide hands-on experience with patients in various medical specialities.



Step 3: Select Your Area of Specialisation and Apply for Residency


While studying for a medical degree, you need to decide on your preferred area of specialisation. Take the help of the vast resources provided by your medical school, professional network, and career advisors to determine the right residency.


In the third year, you can apply for a residency program. Once you complete the 5-6 years of the residency program, you will become a Medical Practitioner. Register with the Medical Board of Australia to work legally in Australia.



Step 4: Get Trained In Plastic Surgery


To become a Plastic Surgeon, you need specialised training with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery.


The training process is a multi-step process that comprises the following:


  • A competitive selection process

  • A primary examination

  • RACS-Approved training program

  • Compulsory research

  • And final examination


All Plastic surgery trainees train at state government-accredited training centres at teaching hospitals across Australia. These centres undergo a stringent accreditation review process.



Step 5: Get Licensed


After completing RACS training in Plastic Surgery, you are just one step away from fulfilling your dream of becoming a certified plastic surgeon. You must pass the RACS examination at the end of the program to obtain the fellowship FRACS (Plast) and become an accredited FRACS plastic surgeon in Australia.


Fellows of the College usually undertake further semi-supervised training in their chosen subspecialty within plastic surgery, such as:


  • Paediatric plastic surgery 

  • Hand surgery 

  • Breast surgery

  • Skin surgery

  • Trauma plastic surgery

  • Hand and upper limb surgery

  • Cancer


You have to sit for the final exam (written and oral) to ensure that you are well-trained and prepared for professional practice.


After completing surgical education and training, qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeons become "Fellows" of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).



Step 6: Continuing Professional Development


Once the formal training is over, Specialist Plastic Surgeons must undertake lifelong learning via the Continuing Professional Development Program conducted by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.


Accredited Plastic Surgeons can join the "Australian Society Of Plastic Surgeons" Facebook group. It will help them meet industry professionals, widen their professional network, and stay up to date on developments in the surgical sciences.



7. How Much Does A Plastic Surgeon Make A Year In Australia?


According to Pay Scale, the average plastic surgeon's salary in Australia is AU$165,000 per year, equivalent to AU$60.00 per hour. Several factors influence their salary, such as:


  • Location of practice 

  • Speciality

  • Board certification

  • Years of experience

  • Gender wage gaps.



Estimated Salary Based on Experience 


  • Early Career Plastic Surgeons (1-4 years of experience): AU$146,956 per year 

  • Mid-career Plastic Surgeons (5-9 years of experience): AU$172,174 per year 

  • Experienced Plastic Surgeons (10-19 years of experience): AU$182,500 per year 


Based on the job openings, Melbourne and Darwin are the two highest-paying cities for Plastic Surgeons. You can expect to earn an average of $216,445 per year and $181,607 per year.



8. Where Do Plastic Surgeons Work?


Plastic surgeons work in various settings offering surgical services, consultations and post-operative therapy.


Some of the most common work environments include: 


  • Hospitals

  • Private clinics

  • Outpatient clinics

  • Educational institutions to conduct academic plastic surgery research


Many of them work as consultant specialists or serve as on-call physicians.



9. What Are The Areas Of Specialisations For Plastic Surgeons?


Plastic surgeons can wish to specialise in a specific type of plastic surgery procedure. The most common options for specialisation include the following:


  • Liposuction

  • Breast Augmentation

  • Breast Reduction

  • Rhinoplasty

  • Abdominoplasty

  • Rhytidectomy

  • Breast Lift

  • Blepharoplasty

  • Maxillofacial surgery

  • Forehead Lift

  • Gynecomastia Surgery



10. Work Environment For Plastic Surgeons


Plastic surgeons work in a clinical setting within a multidisciplinary team. Inside the theatre, they may work with nurses, anaesthetists, assistants, surgeons and medical students. While outside the theatre, they work with physiotherapists, pharmacists, and psychologists.


When dealing with emergency surgeries, plastic surgeons work on-call shifts at odd hours of day and night at hospitals.


Those working in a private clinical setting usually work for standard business hours in a smaller clinical environment.



11. Job Prospects Of Plastic Surgeons In Australia


ANZSCO Occupation Group: 253517: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons


Plastic surgery is a rewarding field capable of drastically enhancing a patient's physical appearance, emotional state, and quality of life. The rising demand for aesthetic surgery and the introduction of stem cells have made plastic surgery more popular.


Moreover, the increasing focus on aesthetics due to social media and diminishing fear around cosmetic surgery are fuelling the demand for this speciality among people of all ages and genders.


Plastic surgery has seen fast growth in the last few years, and the consistent demand will continue. Since many people have cosmetic surgery procedures to enhance their appearance, the number of people offering their services is also growing steadily.


The introduction of non-surgical and non-invasive fat reduction methods like fat-burning and fat-freezing indicates a promising future for plastic surgery in Australia. 



Working Arrangements


Around 90% of employed Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons work full-time for an average of 55 hours per week. (All jobs average is 44 hours per week).



Major Industries for Employment


Around 97.5% of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons work in Health Care And Social Assistance industry.



Percentage Of Employment Across Australia


Victoria has the largest share of employment.


  • New South Wales: 24.6%

  • Victoria: 31.4%

  • Queensland: 18.3%

  • South Australia: 8.0%

  • Western Australia: 12.9%

  • Tasmania: 2.6%

  • Australian Capital Territory: 2.3%



Worker's Age, And Gender Profile


  • The average age of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons is 45 years, with most of them between 35 and 44 years. (All jobs average: 40 years).

  • Females constitute 17% of the workforce which is 31 percentage points less than the average of all jobs, 48%.



12. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What Is The Difference Between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Plastic Surgeon In Australia?


One of the necessary steps to starting your career path to becoming a Plastic Surgeon is to know how a plastic surgeon differs from a cosmetic surgeon. Understanding the cosmetic surgeon vs plastic surgeon comparison will help you make the right career choice. 


The main difference concerns their education and training requirements. 


To become a plastic surgeon, you must qualify as a doctor and undergo at least five years of training and study in Plastic Surgery. You need to do this through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to obtain a specialist qualification recognised by the Australian Government.


To become a Cosmetic surgeon, you don't need to undergo further training after initial medical training and receive board certification. That's why it is legal for any doctor to perform cosmetic surgery without additional training after the initial medical training. Thus, any plastic surgeon can work as a cosmetic surgeon, but vice versa doesn't hold.


Plastic Surgeons can perform both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. On the other hand, cosmetic surgeons can only perform surgical and non-surgical surgeries to improve or reshape different body parts.


Plastic surgeons repair, restore, and enhance both damaged, and healthy parts of the body, while cosmetic surgeons only treat body parts that are healthy and elective.



Is Plastic Surgery Competitive In Australia?


Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is among the nine surgical specialities regulated by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Entry into the 5-year Surgical Education and Training program is highly competitive. The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons administered it on behalf of RACS.


Trainees can only receive the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Fellowship after completing the 5-year SET Program and passing the assessment. It qualifies them for various career opportunities in private and private settings.



How Many Surgeries Does a Plastic Surgeon Do a Day?


A plastic surgeon usually performs a mix of planned and elective surgeries. However, the number of surgeries plastic surgeons can do daily varies based on a few factors. Where simple surgeries take less time to complete, complex surgeries may take several hours and the assistance of other speciality surgeons.


In addition to the duration of the surgery, other factors require consideration:


  • Number of surgeons in the team

  • Type and complexity of Surgeries

  • The capacity of the operation theatre



Is Becoming a Plastic Surgeon Hard?


The most common question that aspiring Plastic Surgeons have is - Is it hard to become a plastic surgeon? Yes. As Plastic surgery is a speciality of surgery. To perform it, you need to be a qualified doctor specialising in plastic surgery.


It is what makes the journey of a Plastic surgeon long and arduous. However, the feeling you get by improving people's lives makes it worthwhile. Becoming a plastic surgeon can be challenging, but it is achievable for those with the right drive and mindset.



How Long Does It Take To Become a Plastic Surgeon In Australia?


Plastic Surgeons have extensive surgical education and training that includes several years of medical and surgical education. To become one, you must complete an undergraduate degree, attend medical school, and complete a residency program to become a fully licensed plastic surgeon.


It can take 14 years or more to pursue this profession in Australia.



Are Plastic Surgeons Real Doctors?


Yes. A plastic surgeon is a licensed medical doctor specialising in different aspects of plastic surgery. It includes tissue transfer, laser surgery, body sculpting, trauma care, and general surgery procedures. 


Every Plastic Surgery must complete all the below steps to provide their services:


  • Have at least five years of surgical training with at least two years in plastic surgery.

  • Must be well-trained and experienced in all types of plastic surgery procedures, such as body, face, breast, and reconstruction

  • Meet CPD requirements, which include standards and modernisations in patient safety.



How Long Is Plastic Surgery Training In Australia?


Training in plastic and reconstructive surgery includes two years of general surgery and four years of specialised training in plastic surgery.



13. Conclusion


The journey to becoming a registered plastic surgeon is long and laborious. Still, it can be a worthwhile endeavour for those who succeed.


It is one of the highest-paid and most diverse medical specialities providing opportunities for your personal and professional life. e


Ensure that you follow the above steps to set yourself up for success in becoming a registered plastic surgeon.


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